In the content creation space, the horror genre is a difficult one to pull off to the finicky viewer’s satisfaction. Some get it spectacularly and go on to create horror masterpieces; while some trudge along the path of horror, churning out mediocre horror turkeys at best.
Yet, good or bad, horror has always been a favourite genre of audiences of all ages. C’mon, admit it – we all love a good scare. Even if we do end up watching the scary bits through the mesh of our fingers covering our eyes, there’s nothing as invigorating as getting your adrenaline rushing, heart thumping and pulse racing by a good ol’ horror story.
SujoyGhosh’s web debut, Typewriter, intends to do all of the above, and then some. The horror web series is streaming on OTT giant, Netflix. Befitting his stature as a proven virtuoso of creating content that rides high on subterfuge, deviousness and bone-chilling suspense, Sujoy’s natural transition to the horror space is a welcome occurrence. The genre could definitely do with intelligent content and innovative content-creators.
Typewriter is written by SujoyGhosh and Suresh Nair, SujoyGhosh has directed the entire series, and is also the producer.
That said, Typewriter is not your regular blood-and-gore-and-levitating-spirits-and-possessed-dolls horror. It is a tale of horror that is steeped in child-like wonder – the wonder of the unknown, the plucky curiosity and the utter fearlessness that is the sole prerogative of kids. Typewriter is a horror story, but drenched in dollops of cheery humour and brave spirit of adventure that defines kids. Coz in Typrewriter, a bunch of kids, four, to be precise, and a dog, are the driving force behind getting the Ghost of Sultanpore out of the hair of the townspeople of Bardez, Goa.
The story goes thus – Bardez Villa, situated in the sleepy little town of Bardez in Goa, is haunted. The haunting of the villa is a result of the foolishness of the owner of the villa, Madhav Mathews (Kanwaljeet Singh), a writer specializing in penning ghost stories. Madhav meddles with evil occult forces that are way beyond his league; more specifically, a soul-collector called Fakeer (Abhishek Bannerjee), which causes Fakeer’s spirit to find residence in his typewriter. So technically, it is not Bardez Villa that is haunted but the typewriter.
Madhav’s granddaughter, Jenny Fernandez (Palomi Ghosh), had witnessed the traumatic effects of the haunting in her childhood. Yet she returns as a grown-up woman to settle down at the still-haunted villa, this time with husband Peter (Samir Kochhar) and kids, Anya (Sara Gesawat) and Nick (AaryanshMalviya) in tow; which we all know is never a good idea. Jenny’s return resurrects the hibernating spirit that haunts the villa, coz it is via Jenny that the spirit operates. The ghost is a shape-shifting spirit who takes the form of Jenny to perpetrate his ghostly deeds.
Meanwhile, young local kid, SameeraAnand (Aarna Sharma), lovingly called Sam by everyone, runs a mean ‘ghost club’ along with her goofy friends, Gablu (Mikail Gandhi) and Bunty (PalashKamble). Much against the wishes of her dad, Inspector Ravi Anand (Purab Kohli), Sam and the guys bunk school, to gambol around town, trying to catch ghosts. Their ‘club house’ is a rickety old boat owned by Moses (Harish Khanna), a sour-natured guy with a wooden leg.
The kids recruit Nick into their club and the ghost-busters are all ready and raring to…..bust ghosts, what else! Oh yes, Sam’s adorable dog, Buddy, is also a part of the ghost club, so there!
Madhav Mathews’ horror novel, called The Ghost of Sultanpore, features prominently at the centre of the mystery surrounding Bardez Villa and Fakeer, the evil spirit. Sam knows the contents of the novel like the back of her hand and also the way to banish Fakeer’s ghost once and for all. The narrative is peppered with shady characters, prime among which is Amit Roy (JisshuSengupta). Viewers are in for a surprising revelation regarding this character in the last five minutes of the final episode.
The premise of the story is infinitely interesting. It is a horror story unlike any we have come across in recent times. Spine-chilling jump scares, unnerving music, stunning atmospherics and surprise twists are thrown into the bubbling cordon of a classy script and intriguing storyline, to give Typewriter a vibe that is distinctly creepy, distinctly unsettling and also, distinctly inventive. The chilling premise of the narrative draws its strength not from gory images of ripping flesh and dripping blood. It does so from the anticipation of terror, from the anticipation that something dreadful is about to happen, thereby gripping our hearts and minds in a stranglehold of fear that is hard to shake off.
That apart, enlisting kids as the main protagonists – the main doers – is a masterstroke in itself. Not only does it lend the story heart-warming humour that only kids can bring to life, it also makes the series a pleasant watch. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled onto a screening of the Goonies or ET or The Gremlins, or any of the kids-driven horror/mystery/thriller of the eighties. Or, err…maybe a televised version of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five….which would also perfectly explain the dog!
This glowing appreciation of Typewriter is not to say that the series is without its flaws. The flaws are there, and quite a few, if we may. Inexplicably, after the first two episodes, the series simply stops trying to scare us and starts veering towards generating feel-good vibes within us. The jump scares all but disappear in the remaining three episodes – ok, make that – dwindle down to a solitary one or two.
Jenny’s doppelganger ghost, after tempting the viewer with several sadistic killings, suddenly shuts the f*ck up – for want of a better expression – no more killings from the lady, is its literal translation. It’s almost as if a nubile nymph, who until now was enticing you with come-hither looks and seductive moves, suddenly goes all coy on you. Quite perplexing, really! Each time Jenny comes close to Sam, we expect the inevitable to happen – Jenny, not being Jenny, but the shape-shifting ghost, and killing Sam in that singularly grotesque fashion. We dread and fear, but it is not to be.
And oh yes, did we mention that the final episode is downright disappointing? It is an anti-climax to the entire build-up of the story, and most definitely underwhelming. What gives, Mr Ghosh?
Quite baffling also is the need to squeeze Elli Avram as Anita into the story, Peter’s past from a business deal gone wrong. Itis an exercise in futility and serves no purpose whatsoever. Let’s hope Season 2, if there is one, justifies the lady’s presence in the story. Samir Kochhar looks like he will be dispensed with in Season 2, coz the narrative is leaning towards romantic vibes between Ravi and Jenny, a la Hopper and Joyce in the Stranger Things franchise.
That, by the way, is not the only thing that seems to be similar between Netflix’s hit science fiction horror series and Typewriter. The premise is also quite similar – kids that are veritable pariahs come together to get to the bottom of a baffling mystery, fighting shape-shifting creatures along the way. The small town environs add to the niggling feeling of déjà vu.
GairikSarkar’s cinematography is brilliant, adding subtle nuances to the narrative that need to be discovered at leisure. The production value of the series is top-notch, as is the casting.
That said, Typewriter is a great watch – fun, engaging and chilling, all in equal measure. The acting is simply superb. The kids are a delight to watch, especially Aarna Sharma who plays Sam. She is a talent to watch out for. Sharma is a born natural before the camera and lends an inimitable joie de vivre to the narrative.
Purab Kohli is superb as always. Jeez, what is it with this guy? He never ceases to surprise us with his uncanny ability to slip into any character with consummate ease – what do they call it….aah yes, chameleon-esque.PalomiGhosh is great as Jenny and the ghost, playing the dual role with perfection.JisshuSengupta is suitably creepy and downright menacing.
However, it is Abhishek Banerjee that deserves special applause. Banerjee is terrifying, to say the least. His portrayal of Fakeer is nerve-wracking, chilling the viewer down to the bare bones. He delivers a visceral gut-punch of a performance, which is hard to shake off from the mind even after several days. It is Abhishek Banerjee that brings the horror into this horror story – there, we’ve said it!
3.5/5 is our rating for Typewriter.